Wednesday: I went out in a down state of mind because of work stuff but was encouraged by Jim. We both preached a gospel message. Michael, a christian, stopped and gave us his support and interacted with hecklers and was encouraged by the work of the gospel.
We had few good hecklers and a small crowd. One heckler claimed he was an ex-christian yet 'had moved away from that' and now agnostic and apathetic. He was keen to listen the whole time and interacted with Jim quite a bit and praise be to God for opening the hearts of the lost. Another heckler was a 'christian' who tried to rebuke Jim for his intolerance of other religions. We respect people of other religions who can often be kind and earnest in their seeking but no other religious figure claimed to be able to take away sin, no other religion promises absolute certainty about whether you will go to heaven and (Acts 4:11-12) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
It is false love to 'tolerate' other religions and withhold the life-saving cure of Jesus Christ and leave them callously to perish in eternal torment. And what does scripture say, "For God so loved the world....." how??? "by sending his one and only begotten son....." why? "that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." If God can love the world by sending his son, and Christ commands us to preach the gospel to all the world, shall we not also imitate our Lord and point them to the beautiful saviour and awesome love of our God? This does not make us better than anyone else, we too are sinners saved by God's grace alone, but it does mean Jesus is a better saviour and God alone. After Jim finished preaching, we spoke to Michael, the christian. We were uplifted to have him excited about the preaching of the gospel. I preached next. Michael stayed to support. I preached on God's good gifts to us: life first then other blessings. During this David and a friend stopped to listen. I engaged David and we spoke at length about righteousness, sin, judgement and salvation offered in Christ alone. David listened and his friend protested. As the protests continued, I ran out of time for the afternoon. Michael and Jim stayed to speak with them after I left.
Thanks be to God again for this opportunity and may the harvest be fit for a King. How great is our God and how great his message of love to the lost.
This week seemed to be about how unpredictable the weather can possibly be, we've had five and six seasons in one day not just the usual four. I walked into Sheffield on Wednesday in bright sunshine to preach with Jim, as it appeared to be just the two of us we began with prayer. Calling on God to work in and through us we submitted to His will in this day and prayed that He would save sinners from Sheffield.
I was first up to preach today and became the only one to preach due to the blessing of the Lord. I began with the fact that slavery is still a reality in our world today. Men and women everywhere are enslaved to sin and unable to free themselves no matter how hard they try and not only that but there are those who joyfully serve their master and embrace him daily. I used this as a springboard to preach the great need all have of salvation from the wrath and just condemnation of God. During this and before I could point to the only and great saviour that God has provided, a heckler stepped up to query me on a minor point. I answered his question from scripture and then queried him in return about his position before God, was he good or evil? I discovered that he was a philosophy student and it was plain that he and his atheistic friend were uncomfortable with the confronting demands of God's law.
There are three distinct ways that the human mind seems to go when confronted with the law that destroys our self-righteousness. First into hopeful legalism: "But God will forgive me because of the many good things I've done...." (or similar). Second into subjectivism and apathy: "Well you may believe that but I don't so it doesn't matter anyway....". And lastly into prideful dispute: "Evolution and science disproves the bible....".
First the philosopher was hopeful of his good works, we looked to see if this would work in the lesser court of man to see if it applies before God. Just as a murderer is no less a criminal for donating to charity, it follows that if we break God's law in any way (lies, lust, hate, blasphemy etch) we are not made right by doing good. We need a perfect life if we are to be made right through legalism, and as the saying goes "No-one is perfect....".
Second the atheist piped up that he doesn't believe God exists so it doesn't matter anyway. We first discussed the philosophical difficulty of claiming to absolutely know that God doesn't exist anywhere at any time Unless this young man was more than he seemed and actually knew all things, "Knowing the beginning from the end...." (being God as such) he could not logically claim to know there is no God.
Second I asked if Adolph Hitler did the right thing in Germany with the Jews? He said no that it was wrong. I then raised the very difficult issue of good and evil for the atheist perspective. If man is just a consequence of random chance then there is no innate value in man, woman or child and if there is no absolute moral law giver then there is no absolute moral law saying that it is wrong to do the evil things Hitler did. Atheism crumbles in the face of both immense moral evil and also immense moral good. It has no reason for no such things as the "good and heroic" rescuer who dies saving the life of a disabled child (the least fit and least worth saving as per evolution) or for the "evil and perverted" torture of such children by men become monsters in the camps of Nazi Germany.
At the mention of the theory Hitler worked out in practice, both these men chimed in with "what about evolution?". There are many issues with the theory of evolution so I tried to be brief because at this stage a crowd was gathering to hear the debate. I touched on the lack of the predicted millions of transitional forms in the fossil record (the missing links are still very much missing!). I also spoke on the implications of a changing speed of light for the ageing of ancient finds. It has been shown to be slowing exponentially by physicists, which means that the "millions of years" in the fossil records is likely to be artificial!
I ended by quoting Sir Arthur Keith who said "Evolution is unproven and unprovable, but we choose to believe it because the alternative is unthinkable....". At this I swung to the crowd and told them that the alternative is true, God made them and they are accountable to Him. Following this I was able to give the great news of hope that comes in the person of Jesus Christ and in His propitiating work of death and resurrection.
With this I had to head back to work and so handed things to Jim wishing fervently that there would be more labourers that would join us in this work.
Praise God that He uses such an unworthy vessel as me! May His name be glorified and His honour be forever more!
I was with my Lord alone on Saturday and rejoiced to go as He has commanded to preach the good news to all the world. In my little corner of this world there was plenty of opportunity in the peace gardens but as I arrived the rain came bucketing down and I ran for cover.
As the rain emptied the gardens completely I then went down into Fargate and preached there on the ultimate statistics, death and judgement. For the length of the preaching the only hecklers I had were scoffers who would not speak but rather preferred to jeer as they passed.
God is kind to me though, at the end He allowed me to see some of the hidden fruit that are not so easily seen as the scornful and hateful passers-by. A quiet young lady who had been standing nearby came over to talk with me. Though she is admittedly heavily influenced by the eastern religions, she welcomed the interaction as we talked through the justice and mercy of God. I urged her to read the bible and trust in it, she left with a smile and a tract in hand.
As I left for the day I handed out tracts to the people passing through the mall, I am always encouraged to see people taking the tracts and reading them as they walk. This is a great opportunity we have in this country, I am sure we will not always have it. Christian readers, are you taking the opportunity to witness while you can, the time is short!
Editors Note (JM): Brothers and sisters please pray for this man, who is willing to go alone for the sake of Christ. We love you Mr Gee, keep up the difficult work for His name's sake. To all of you out there, who witness alone.. know that you are not alone in these endeavours, and we pray God will send more labourers into the harvest with you! S D G
This Saturday Anna and I headed into Sheffield to witness, as we went we prayed that God would go with us and work through us to save sinners. As soon as we arrived in Fargate I saw Mekial, a non-Christian friend we have made while witnessing.
Mekial and I talked for quite some time while Anna and Peter (who arrived while we spoke) gave out tracts. Mekial among other things struggles with how belief works in the context of the rest of our lives and what it means to turn from a sinful life. I spent some time encouraging him to not run from God, but rather trust Him and trust that He knows what is best for him. I also encouraged Mekial to read the poem "The Hound of Heaven" and think on the ways that God is pursuing him - something Mekial has often mentioned feeling.
Mekial headed off after promising to come and talk some more another day and I headed for the trees that have become our regular place of preaching. I preached for what seemed like a short period and though not many came to heckle there was still a number of people that gathered around and listened as I proclaimed Christ crucified for sin and sinners and raised gloriously for their hope and justification.
After handing out a couple more tracts the three of us headed around to the Peace Gardens to witness to the youth who would be gathered to enjoy the sun. Anna immediately got into a discussion with a group of people and while some of them joked and laughed at first "George" told them all to be quiet because he wanted to listen. This was the beginning of a conversation that went on for the best part of an hour and a half. During this Anna was able to share the gospel with both "George" and his friends, at the end "George" spoke briefly to me and said it was the first time a woman had talked sense to him (especially on this topic from the other things he said).
Peter who is relatively new at witnessing with us in Sheffield did excellently and held his own with a large group of youth all firing questions at him. Given some time I am sure that he will be very bold indeed for the Lord.
I spoke with "Josh" and his friend "Luke" and was able by the grace of God give them the gospel over and over again and answered their questions to the best of my ability. After speaking with them at some length I went and spoke to Jaunosh the local philosopher-goth. One of his friends was eating a bible he had received from Anna and Jaunosh was gleefully filming the act. Thus the discussion began with the depravity of mankind's heart and their enmity to God through their mind of wicked works. Jaunosh among other things tried to charge God with bribery and blackmail for warning people of their just punishment in hell for sin and rebellion against Him. I tried in a couple of ways to show him that God is immensely merciful in giving any warning to us but that He warns us in so many different ways and so often - this is grace apon grace to a people who hate Him by nature.
At the very end of the night a young bloke that we saw when we first came to Sheffield named Rob (sorry I forgot your name again Rob!) came up and asked if this was our job? I responded that no we do this voluntarily thinking that was it, at which he asked how he could become involved in doing this volunteering also. I got his contacts and gave him mine and Anna gave him a pack of tracts and said "you can start by handing these out...".
What an end to the night, praise God that He raises up workers to this harvest field. To Him be praise and Glory and Honour both now and forever more!
Friday was warm and breezy and in the sunshine with the beauty of the green countryside all around it was easy to think of the great blessings that God has given this country. One particular blessing we have is the freedom to stand and give the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus by grace through faith. Jim, Peter and I joined in prayer before Jim began to preach.
Jim began by discussing the very prevalent thought that "All religions are equally valid". Jim did an excellent job of showing that polytheistic Hinduism and atheistic Buddhism have very little in common with the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Likewise he showed the foolishness of saying salvation is by working hard (Buddhism and Islam for example) is the same as salvation by grace (Christianity). As Jim preached on this I prayed that God would draw in a crowd and I was pleased to see that a couple of people were gathering around. As a group of four of them left I went to intercept them with a tract and was caught in a wonderful witnessing encounter.
After five or ten minutes I turned back to the preaching and found that God had graciously answered prayer and drawn a crowd of 40-50 people. As Jim was hard at it with Muslim apologetics, I went and stood by him as a support as Muslims can be very aggressive sometimes.
Jim kept at it for some time and gave a great defence of Christianity and preached the gospel a couple of times over. The crowd was a real mix with atheist and Muslim and agnostic hecklers and even a couple of Christians smiling encouraging and amending to Jim's words. After a period Jim tagged me in as his voice was going and the crowd was not abating at all.
I jumped up and engaged the couple of Muslims that had been heckling by asking them to consider what Jesus said. From this I discussed many different topics including the veracity of God's revelation with an atheist through to the deity of a philosopher cum Muslim. As often as I could I pointed people back to the glorious gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. Though there are many different objections and protests against the preaching of the gospel, the crux of the issue for most revolves around the question "Who do you say I am?" (Mt 16:15-16). There are only two possible reactions to Jesus, He is either the Lord God or He is to a lesser or greater extent despised and rejected.
After almost 2hrs of continuous preaching and apologetics between Jim and I, the crowd was still present but neither of us had any voice to continue. As I closed I was glad to see that many people had tracts in hand, but unfortunately with only three people in the team we were only able to talk with a handful of people before the crowd dispersed. Please join us in praying that there would be more people raised up in Sheffield to witness with us so that these great opportunities would not be wasted.
With the rain coming down and the weather more consistent with winter rather than summer Anna and I headed into Sheffield, after a time of prayer together we walked into Fargate and I set up to preach under the trees.
As I preached a couple of girls stopped in a nearby shop and then approached to find out what I was doing. I went through the good person test with the three of them but unfortunately they left shortly after getting through the law and it's demands. It is very common that people will leave or begin to object when they come under the magnifying glass of God's standard. I agree that this is an uncomfortable thing, but as any good doctor will tell you, sometimes we need to go through difficult and painful experiences in order to live (cancer treatment for example).
Shortly after this a group of three American missionaries stopped and asked me if I thought that street preaching and witnessing "worked". This is entirely the wrong question, I am in no position to tell if witnessing of any kind works, God is able to see the end results I cannot. I told them that the reason that we witness on the street, is because of the great opportunities God provides there. Many of the people we are able to share the gospel with, are not only "un-churched" but rather they and their parents have never attended church. These people do not look at church as something they know and have no interest in, but rather it is as foreign to many as it would have been to the first British pagans.
After closing we began to give out tracts and talk with whoever would speak to us. I had a wonderful encounter with a young couple that I was able to share the gospel with and though they had to leave for work they left with tracts. Anna also spoke at length with one of the charity workers and though she thought she would be going to heaven because she was good she heard Anna willingly. Just before the rain began in earnest and we went home Anna also spoke with two young men and again the gospel was given and we pray they would turn to Jesus and be saved.
Jim and Peter joined me this Wednesday, witnessing of our risen Lord in Fargate. Thank you to all of you who faithfully pray week after week for us as we work, I am sure that the Lord has moved many times in the past and recently in response to your appeals to Him.
This week Jim preached first and again the gospel sounded forth in the dark town, we call home. Jim had a couple of interactions with people who stopped and was able to give them the gospel and challenge them with the law of God. I did not get to hear much of the preaching as during it, a young lady came up and spoke with me. She is from a local church and said that she had heard us preaching a couple of times and had spoken to Jim before. Encouragingly she was interested in street ministry and wanting to know more about what we did. I gave her some information and an action pack and then unfortunately was drawn away from speaking further first by a phone call from a friend and then a conversation with a Muslim man.
The Muslim man was discussing Islam and Christianity with Peter, I joined the discussion and we talked for quite some time. As all Muslims do, Muhammad (I think) sincerely held that the Qur'an and their prophet Muhammad are the final revelation of God for the world. It is a massive offence to the Muslim people to tell them that the prophet they follow and the scripture they have trusted in are false, so I always try to do so carefully. We discussed for some time on the many aspects in which our two faiths contrast and contradict each other. The two things that seemed to make him stop and think were the command for Muslims to trust the prophecies and scriptures of the Jews and Christians (Sura 29:46 and 10:94) and the command for people to honour Jesus as God from those scriptures (Jn 5:22-23).
After Jim finished preaching we were kept busy for a period with one-to-one conversations and handing out tracts. As I left, the one-to-ones were going on still.
Praise God that He draws people to hear the gospel!
Just for a change this Friday it was rainy and grey, we have actually had great weather for the last couple of weeks. I arrived to find that Jim was already witnessing to a young man down by the bus stop at the end of Fargate. As Jim was in deep conversation for quite some time, I set up and began to preach while I waiting for him to come and join me under the trees that have since become our regular witnessing area.
As the gentle rain fell I began to preach on this great blessing of God that Britain receives regularly (and Australia doesn't). From this I called the people of Sheffield to think on the kindness of God to both the righteous and the unrighteous and how this demands that we should likewise love those around us, as it is written:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mat 5:43-48)
While I preached on this two young ladies stopped to heckle and raised the thought that it is not right to love a paedophile. I responded first by pointing to the fact that Christians are called to hate the evil that people commit, yet love the people who commit evil. Also that it is sin for a person to hate anyone, making them guilty of murder in their heart before God. Secondly I pointed to the love with which we are to love them, a love that is not romantic or even sentimental, but rather a love that wants the best for them and wants them to be godly. God has modeled this for us in the person of Jesus; he loved God-hating sinners like us, and transforms Christians to live holy and godly lives through the work of the Spirit.
After this a group of Muslim men stopped and protested that someone could be right with God regardless of what they do, if they do enough good deeds. I spoke to them with difficulty because of the language barrier, but they listened carefully, sometimes requiring translations from a friend. Beginning with God's standards being much higher than ours I pointed them to the futility of pointing to good deeds as an excuse for crime before any judge (human or divine). Using this as a springboard I expounded the gospel to them and urged them to trust in Jesus and not their good works.
I wrapped up and stepped down from preaching, there were a few one to ones that were starting and I spotted an Indian-descent man standing nearby who had listened. Going over to him I spoke with him at length about the one True God who has made the heavens and the earth. He is a modern hindu and believes that there is no need for any particular religion as long as we work to be good to each other. I reasoned with him for some time and hopefully he left with something to think on as well as the tract in his hand. During this time Jim and Peter were hard at it giving out many tracts and speaking with people. As I finished speaking to the Hindu man the rain began to fall and Peter and I found cover under an awning for a time of fellowship. Shortly we were joined by Jim when he finished speaking to some school kids.
We pray that God would use all the words spoken in these two days to His glory and to save the souls of people in our city.
Today Jim, Chris and I joined together to reach out to the people of Sheffield and met in Fargate. We prayed together and appealed to the Lord of the harvest that He would intervene in the lives of people to perhaps save a few from those who heard.
I stood up to preach first while Jim and Chris witnessed to those who were in the vicinity. I spoke on the wisdom of man and the folly of man being defined by Christ in their response to His words. While I struggled to get a response there were a few people who listened nearby and I pray that God would use the message to work in them, as He will.
Jim was next up and I have noticed that he is improving steadily in his preaching and becoming more bold and confident. It is fantastic to see God raising other workers up in this needy field of evangelism and I praise God for bringing along Jim, John and Chris.
At first while Jim was preaching there were only a couple of people listening. During this time I went to speak to a lady and her daughter about suffering and God, but was only able to give them a short explanation and a tract because I was interrupted. The interruption was in the form of a raging Mr Gnostic who was back for round two. I quickly went to support Jim who was holding his own against a positive whirlwind of shouting and incoherence. Mr Gnostic was shouting this time that Christians are nothing but a bunch of paedophiles that have concealed the truth that they can have power over people.
Jim did an excellent job of refuting this spurious assertion and repeatedly went to the word of God to show what Jesus said of Himself as recorded in the eyewitness accounts. All the noise gathered a large crowd and Jim took this as an opportunity to preach the gospel many more times. While he was doing this Chris and I were working the crowd to make sure as many people who left as possible could get tracts or speak to one of us.
The preaching went on for quite some time and in the end Jim had to stop only because of the time, I had to get back to work! Jim and Chris where still witnessing to two separate groups as I ran to get back to work.
Praise God that He answers prayers and brings in people to hear the gospel.
John joined me to witness in Sheffield this Saturday and while the day was quiet because of the long weekend there were still quite a few people around to speak with.
I was first up to speak and spoke from John the Baptist's announcement:
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (Joh 1:29b)
I spoke on the person of Jesus and who He is, not the carpenter of Nazareth, but rather God the Son come in the flesh and walking among us. Not many people stopped but I did get to speak with a Buddhist man at length, and urge him not to trust himself to the works based perfection that that religion seeks.
Afterwards I spoke with an older Christian gent who encouraged me in what John and I were doing. Christians, please if you ever see a street preacher, stop and encourage them, you have no idea how much it urges them on to greater works for our Lord!
John spoke next, though public speaking doesn't come naturally to him John faithfully preaches and I know that God uses his words to good effect. During the preaching he interacted with a group of young hecklers and also a Muslim man. While this was happening I was handing out tracts and so didn't get to hear much of what was said.
After a period of speaking to the Muslim man John stepped down to continue discussing things with him. Muhammad was a very open young Muslim and even though he was trying to point us back to the Qur'an as authority in matters of faith he was happy to discuss. John and I spoke with him for quite some time.
Among many things we discussed the outworking of the absence of mercy in Allah as seen in Qur'anic law. There are many controversial things demanded in sharia law such as amputation for theft and death for adultery, but the one thing that causes the most death and suffering in the Islamic world is the law regarding apostasy. Five of the five schools of Islamic law hold that a sane man (a male over 15 years) who leaves the Islamic faith for another is to be killed. Likewise four of the five schools hold this position for women who apostatise. As Barnabas fund (www.barnabasfund.co.uk) have show in their many reports, this has lead to innumerable people to be killed or persecuted around the entire world, even in supposedly "Christian" nations like the UK.
If I were a Muslim I would have immense difficulty with this reality and be forced to ask, "If this is the mercy of Allah shown in his law then what will he do to me when I appear before his judgement?". I urge all Muslims to consider that question carefully and consider the many ways you have broken the laws of God both within and without. There is no mercy in Allah for the above crimes why should there be any for you in your crimes?
But we didn't point this young man to Allah and the Qur'an but rather to the living God and the work of God in history to save men like him and us. The Qur'an demands Muslims to trust the Bible and so we urged him to read John 5:19-47 where all are commanded to honour the Son (Jesus) as they honour the Father.
So I end by asking you all, whom do you trust in? For it is written:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
This Saturday Anna and I headed into Fargate together to bear witness to Christ. We shared a time of prayer first and then began by handing out tracts, while we were doing this I bumped into Ian, whom I had spoken with recently, whilst preaching. Ian had been hoping to see us again soon, and was (contrary to what some Christians believe) glad of the opportunity to speak with us further about the things of God.
Ian and I discussed some of the ins and outs of the Christian life and again I was impressed by his desire to find answers. He left with a smile, after shaking my hand and thanking me for sharing the gospel of Christ Jesus with him again.
We headed up the mall and set up in the centre to preach. I got up to preach while Anna and Paddy were doing good work, witnessing one-to-one and handing out tracts. Today appeared to be a day of hecklers and objections and the first up was Andrew. Andrew did part of the good person test with me, he began to object when I said to him that God would one day judge all he did and thought. At this point Sam chimed in also and basically just gave the assertion that God could not judge him because he didn't like it.
I tried to answer both Sam and Andrew and show that God is the judge over all of us by right because he has made us and gives us life. If someone makes a vase of clay they have the right to treasure or destroy it because they made the vase and thus it belongs to them. Likewise it is written that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and because of this God as our maker has the right to determine what rules will govern our existence. This was answered with another assertion (which is impossible to defend), "There is no God" and "You can't prove God exists". So we discussed the evidence that comes from design and the order of our world that positively screams, "God has made the universe".
The next heckler to step up to the plate was an atheist man who was determined to pin the cause of suffering in the world, on God. I tried to answer this age-old question in a reasonable fashion, but the interruptions were coming hard and fast. And he insisted that his assertion was right. After struggling backwards and forwards for some time on this topic, it finally became clear what he wanted to say. In essence his claim was that because God made us and is in absolute control of everything. He is responsible for our sin. This claim holds about as much water as a sieve, and is addressed far more ably than I, by many authors (e.g. J Blanchard in ‘Is God Past His Sell by Date?' and ‘Does God believe in Atheists?').
The bible teaches that first and foremost we are all responsible for our sin before God:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Secondly the Bible also teaches as this man rightly pointed out, God is sovereign and in absolute control of the world. Does this then mean that God is really at fault for our sin and we are off the hook? NO! While the two concepts appear to be in contradiction, to the mind of fallen and weak men and women, it is not the case. These concepts are taught as equally true, God is absolutely in control, but we are also are absolutely guilty of treason and rebellion against God. And as the letter to the Romans puts so clearly:
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?
There were many other questions and different reactions to my answers varying between open hostility and accusations through to thoughtful nods and affirmations. Let them think what they will of me, I AM worthy of contempt (and eternal hell), but for my glorious saviour.
We pray O God that you will continue to work through your Spirit whenever the gospel is proclaimed, convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment. Save the people of our town and rise in your might to defend your people. May all be to your glory O God both now and forever where your people will join in singing around your throne:
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"
A private word
Over the last couple of months I have struggled with discouragement and despair. This is in part to do with the hardness of people's hearts, partly stress and sheer tiredness, and partly to do with my own misconceptions about what my life should be like. I have come to see (by the grace of God through many precious people around me) that this attitude is not right.
What reason do I have to despair, indeed what right? My Lord and God has been merciful and kind to me far beyond this hell-deserving sinner should have ever expected. As a Christian I have been purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ and my life is no longer my own; I have been purchased at great cost. As one who walks in the path of my saviour I should expect nothing more than the responses my Lord faced, if I am indeed being faithful (Mt 10:16-25).
In the work of evangelism there are times of frustration, pain, offence, hurt and rejection and these things are hard to bear. But this does not change, who we are, nor who our Lord is. He is good and wise and has promised to be with us always, working everything to the good of those who love Him; I should bring our frustrations to Him! As His child, knowing His mercy and grace I will take up my very small cross and follow my Lord who bore the shame and reproach of my sin before me. If my all is lost in this world and I die an unknown scorned and abused street preacher I am satisfied to be called Christ's, and lose all else. For as Paul wrote so truly:
Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as dung, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Php 3:7-12
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phillipians 1:21
This Friday Jim, John and Cedric gathered together with me to pray before John and Cedric headed away (I was late getting out from work). Jim and I remained and set up to preach in Fargate. I stood and preached the gospel to those in the mall; while not many stopped to listen, there are now many people who sit on the chairs nearby so I preached with them in mind. Afterwards a man named Rowan came up and encouraged Jim and I in what we were doing. Rowan works among the gangs of our city on the north side, sharing the gospel with the youth. I likewise encouraged him to continue in his work for the Lord and will be keeping him in prayer.
While I continued to chat to Rowan, Jim was preaching and doing an excellent job.
A couple of hecklers opened fire on Jim and he gave a great response showing clearly that we can know that God exists if only people open their eyes to see. Part way through Jim's apologetic the young man left, but quickly others stood up to object to the gospel he was preaching.
A Muslim man was trying to persuade others in the crowd that Jim was wrong and now stepped forward to say that the bible was changed and that Jesus never claimed He was God. Sura 29:46 commands all Muslims to believe the revelation found in the bible at the time of Muhammad. Jim used this along with the fact that our current bible texts predate Muhammad by hundreds of years to point the crowd to John 5. Here among other things Jesus claims to be equal with the Father, worthy of the same worship as the Father, and having all authority over life death and judgement. Though many Muslims hate to hear it, their own scriptures command them (through the words of John) to worship Jesus and tell them and all others that Jesus will be their final judge. Why will the Muslim never submit to this? The same reason the Jews would not, they do not believe the word of God revealed in the prophets:
"If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (Joh 5:46-47)
The discussions following this continued until 5.30pm and Jim was able to share the gospel with the people present many times.
This Saturday we had the unfortunate combination of Anna being unwell and my workday being extra long. Because of this we were out for only a short period of time and Anna came as support only (what a wonderful wife she is - she should have been in bed).
I preached on atheism and the foolishness and emptiness of this position, it makes a non-sense of purpose, morality, rationality, justice, aesthetics, and hope after death. During this a group of youth wandered past and I urged one of the young men to stop and consider if he was good by God's standard. We went through the good person test but he left as we came to the consideration of what the law would mean for him when he appears before God after death.
During this a Muslim man stopped and I asked him as the youth left what he thought of all this? After a small discussion he said to me he believes that the bible is not true, because he was a Muslim. At this I firstly used Jim's apologetic from a couple of days ago to point to the demands of the Muslim scriptures that he believe what the bible says.
At this point I raise the natural consequence of this apologetic. Can the quran be trusted and is it a divine revelation from the God of the bible? I showed him that the quran contradicts the bible on key doctrines (the unchanging nature of God, the divinity of Jesus, and the crucifixion to name just three), though claiming the bible is the authority the quran depends on and defers to. Because of this there is only two possibilities, the quran is wrong and the bible is right; or both the quran and the bible are wrong.
Unfortunately at this point work intervened again and I had to leave, thankfully I was able to hand out tracts to some of those gathered. Praise God that He gives us such clear revelation of Himself!
As the weather here in Yorkshire warms up, people are more happy to talk and will interact with us more. This can be great but it can also mean that preaching can become very chaotic, as was the case today.
Jim and I prayed together in the centre of Fargate and then Jim stood to preach the good news of Christ crucified for sinners. Jim has only been preaching on the street for a short period of time but has a very strong preaching method from his work as a lay preacher. People tend to gather to hear what he says and as I stood praying that people would be drawn in to hear the gospel that is just what happened.
As a crowd gathered a lady who claimed to be a follower of Jesus shouted out a question ‘how can you reconcile the God of the bible and the suffering of the world'. I am not sure on the sincerity of her questioning but she claimed that she was having doubts about her faith and wanted answers. Jim did an excellent job to answer this very difficult question (the short answer is sin produces suffering, not God), and then turned to question her in return regarding the sin in her heart. During the good person test she justified herself many times and though she would admit some guilt before God I wondered if it was pride or embarrassment that stopped her from being honest. It is a good thing to test your faith against reality and struggle with the difficult questions that come from this struggle, but it must be done in knowledge of our fallenness and in submission to God's revealed truth.
At this stage the crowd was getting larger and 30 or so people were standing and listening to the interactions, I began to hand explanation tracts to all those who left and so heard only a little of the preaching. In quick succession Jim fielded questions from a series of hecklers; first was an angry Atheist who would not listen and only justified himself as being the same as everyone else when questioned about his obedience to God. Next was Chris who likewise thought he was good because he did nothing different to the rest of the people he knew, revealingly he stormed off when Jim opened the bible to read him a passage of scripture. Next was a group of youth that seemed determined to be as foul as they could possibly be, they wanted to know about homosexuality and if God is against it. Jim quoted Romans chapter one (where God condemns the rebellion of man and allows them to stew in their sin - including sexual perversion), in response and with that they stormed off not wanting to know anything more.
A group of muslim men in the crowd began to rapid fire questions at Jim, the basic assertion of these men was that Jesus was merely a prophet and not God. Jim refuted this rapidly and while interacting with one of the men pointed out the falseness of Islam as a religion - this produced a violent reaction and if the police had not been present I am sure there would have been an assault. I moved in beside Jim quickly while this was happening but was thankful nothing further came of it. In this country hard-line muslims hide behind their minority status and claim that anything that points to the falseness of Islam is ‘Islamophobia'. All the while these same people will boldly declare that all other faiths are false and worthy of only scorn.
At this point I stood up to speak with the muslim man and try and give some other apologetics on top of those Jim had given. I attempted to speak to the man regarding the crucifixion, in particular the contradiction between the Qu'ranic denial of this and history's confirmation of it. At hearing of the witness of Tacitus, Pliney, and Josephus to the appearance of Jesus to the disciples this he only laughed and scorned Christianity as having only a handful of witnesses. Oddly at this point he left very quickly as I would not let him speak to the crowd but rather preached over the top of him. For a short period I discussed Muhammad and if he fits the role of a biblical prophet or not, which he clearly does not with no public miracles, no historically confirmed prophecies, and a life full of murder deceit and indulgence. I spoke for a short period also with an Atheist who spoke to Jim earlier, now he wanted proof that the earth was as old as the bible seems to claim. Again he would not listen and was constantly complaining that I was not answering his questions.
Just when I thought it couldn't get any more chaotic Mr Gnostic arrived and things really went mad. Mr Gnostic began by informing everyone that evil spirits had inspired Christianity, which was a perversion away from the true God, and that Jesus preached karma and reincarnation! Needless to say I loudly and roundly denied this and pointed to the historical Jesus who preached repentance from dead works and a final judgement at the end of life. He then began to rant that the gospels in the bible are only an account of ‘the false roman trial' of Jesus and the ‘true' Gnostic gospels gave the real story. (An interesting thing to note is that there is no trace of the Gnostic gospels until well after the fourth century, when the gospels and indeed the entire New Testament were being circulated throughout the ancient world.) As Mr Gnostic ranted I began to preach over him that Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil, and that special ‘gnosis' or knowledge in his cult is aimed to empower people to become as God - this is a lie direct from Satan. After a short period of ranting and raving and waving his arms about he took off down the mall and did not return. The crowd applauded him and his anti-biblical stance and many of them left. I preached the gospel one last time and then stood down.
Gnosticism teaches that through special knowledge or ‘gnosis' people can through many lives and building up enough good karma become right with God. Indeed it teaches that by this knowledge you can become a little divinity in your own right. This is a fusion of both an ancient Christian heresy and eastern religions, borrowing heavily from Hindu gurus and Buddhism. This cult leaves people hardened in their belief that they can make their own way to God and will ultimately condemn them because even our best works are far short of God's perfect standard.
At the end of all this chaos a young couple, Peter and his wife Nyieve, came up and encouraged Jim and I to keep on preaching the gospel. Peter is interested in street evangelism and so I gave him our contact details and I hope to see him again soon on the streets.
Praise God that in the midst of such chaos the gospel was preached and many people heard. Pray that God above would raise up more labourers for this field of the harvest and most of all that He would save sinners through the faithful (if weak and seemingly foolish) preaching of the gospel.
This Friday markets were set up in Fargate for the long weekend and this can be good and bad. Good because the markets attract people that we can then share the gospel but also bad because they mean that people tend to keep shopping rather than stop to talk or listen.
Jim and I prayed together, asking God to work in the hearts of people as we preached and spoke to people. After this I stood in the midst of the markets and preached, focusing on the meaning of Jesus' name and his role as saviour of sinners. During this a small crowd gathered and listened, within this crowd Ian stood at the front and after listening for a while he began to ask questions. He was an excellent heckler and would ask his questions clearly and loudly and then give me time to answer him. Ian asked many questions about Christianity and I used the opportunity to expound the nature of God, the reliability of the final revelation given in the bible, the position of man as a sinner before God, the certainty of judgement, and again and again gave the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. This was a fantastic interaction and I thank God that He allowed me to participate in it. Within the crowd there were a few Christians and I was encouraged to see some nodding heads and smiles as I proclaimed our great saviour.
Afterwards I chatted shortly with Ian shortly before heading back to work. He shook my hand and thanked me for sharing the gospel with him! As I was heading away I saw Jim discussing things with a pair of young salesmen and giving them an account of the faith we hold.
We pray that God would intervene more frequently and bring interactions like these more often, praise Him for His goodness and wisdom. In all things may His name be glorified and the Saviour Jesus be loved and sought.
Having the day off I set off for Sheffield to witness with John, the markets were still on and there were many people in town. John and I spent some time in fellowship and prayer before witnessing and having committed the day to the Lord began handing out tracts.
There was also a group of people from the local church doing an outreach, they were having an evangelistic sermon that night and were inviting people to come. After handing out tracts for a period and having a few short conversations I set up the preaching post in the centre of Fargate and John stood to preach the gospel. While John preached a young guy I have spoken with before and a pair of the people from the local church stopped to listen. John did a great job I thought and gave a clear appeal for people to repent and trust in Jesus.
Simon and I spoke afterwards; he and I have talked before and he says that he doesn't want to trust in God just because of fear of judgement. We had quite a long conversation about the two equally true characteristics of God, His mercy and His justice. As he left I gave him a tract and urged him to consider carefully the Love and Justice of God shown clearly in Jesus Christ.
While we were talking John was having a hard conversation with the two church folk. The refrain was heartbreakingly familiar "You're judging people and all they will hear is that God is going to send them to hell....". These two young people have swallowed the pragmatic gospel approach of telling people of God's love and forgiveness only without the Holy and righteous demands of God's law and the need of a radical turning from sin. While this may bring accolades from man it is not in line with the gospel as spelled out in the bible (Rom 3:21-24; Acts 17:30-31; Acts 26:20 and many others). They left after condescendingly telling us that they would pray that God would send His Holy Spirit to us (all believers have Him in them dear reader!). We pray that these people would look more closely at our motives and at the bible. We win no accolades for preaching a gospel of repentance and faith, but we do it in obedience to the word of God.
I preached next on the free offer of God to take the heavy burden of sin from us and give us life eternal. Pointing people to the saviour and away from the temporary pleasures of sin in this world I pleaded that people would stop in their current march towards hell.
After lunch we gave out some further tracts and I had some good conversations. Please keep Juanosh in your prayers as he is considering the evidences for the bible and struggling with the contrasts between what God's word says and what the world says. During our conversation today he had been in church before and had not been able to believe. I asked if he had genuinely repented of sin and trusted in the saviour, no was the reply. I pointed him to the impossibility of having relationship with someone if you will not stop doing the things that they hate. Please continue to appeal to God to work among the emo's and goth's of Sheffield, I had a great conversation with a young emo guy and despite the attempts of his friends to stop the conversation he heard the whole gospel.
With this I headed for home and pray that God will use this work.
(Report submitted by David Gee. Photo's edited and published by Josh Mitchell).
Heading into Sheffield this afternoon I was praying that God would work in Sheffield today. Increasingly of late, I have been convinced that there is nothing even the most powerful preacher can do, if God will not move. So with this in mind, this very little preacher humbly calls on God to stand and vindicate His great name and in mercy save people from my town.
In town I ran into Cedric speaking with people in the mall, as always carrying his banner of scripture. He was encouraging a Christian man as I arrive and he proceeded to encourage me also. I praise God for this man often and again had my heart warmed by his Christian fellowship. I walked from there up Fargate, handing out tracts as I went heading to the Peace Gardens, which are full of people on these warmer summer days. I still think it's cold and so I am constantly amazed to find people running through the fountains.
In the gardens I ran into a couple of youth that I have spoken to before and while chatting with them Muhammad came up and introduced himself to me. Muhammad and I discussed the evidences that back up the bible and the Christian beliefs and the need that all people have to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. As it became clear, Muhammad was a Christian but the conversation was not a waste by any means. Firstly all the non-Christians around us where listening as we talked and secondly Christians like him and I need to talk of the glorious saviour often and savour the things of Christ.
Turning to some of the other youth around me I asked if any of them had any questions about the gospel or the things of God, they had none so I went back to Fargate to preach. Preaching the gospel is always a fearful thing and when doing it alone I often tremble when starting, this is a good reality check on the seriousness of what we preach and also good in that it drives us to prayer. Praise God that He is with all Christians as they share the gospel, may He speak through me, and His words be heard and mine forgotten.
Michael and some of his friends stopped to listen to the preaching and I called him out to do the good person test with me. He happily complied and though he was certain by the end that He like me was guilty before God he was convinced that God would not condemn him. One of his friends piped up that "God is all forgiving isn't He?". I strove to show Michael and his friends that God is both just and merciful. Just in that we will have no excuse before Him based on good works and that He will justly condemn to eternal punishment those who are lawbreakers. Merciful in that He offers us pardon for our rebellion against Him and eternal life through the once crucified risen saviour. Many of the small crowd took tracts and after urging them all to turn to Jesus in repentance and faith, I stepped down.
Shaun was watching the preaching and I spoke with him afterwards, he was a Christian and so I encouraged him to be faithful to His Lord. Shaun like so many Christians is currently struggling (all Christians will in this world, Jesus promised). I pray that God will use these hard times to make Shaun like his saviour and walking with him in his trouble bring him safe to his heavenly home.
I went back to the Peace Gardens to speak some more to the people gathered there. I ran into Juanosh (sorry the spelling is wrong, mate) and some friends of his. Juanosh was considering the Old Testament the last time I met him and struggling to understand how it fits with the New Testament. This time when I asked how his considerations were going I was saddened to hear that he had cast the whole bible aside, because there were too many contradictions in it! I asked him to tell me one of them; he could not say anything other than a vague difference between the old and new testaments. We talked for a while and during this conversation I challenged him to search out and find me the contradictions in the bible, he will be getting back to me. The rest of the conversation focused around the law of God and the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ dying for sinners and rising to life, which is offered to all who will repent and believe in Him.
I went home rejoicing that the Lord had given me so many opportunities to speak for Him and praying that He would save these people.